From ‘Wild Rice play hits a sour note’, 8 Aug 2013, article by Feng Zengkun, ST
THE provocative ending of the recently staged play Cook A Pot Of Curry caught many people by surprise – and none more so than the authorities. When asked, the Media Development Authority (MDA) replied that the final scene – where a huge Singapore national flag is raised and then dropped to the ground – had not been included in the materials submitted to it for the play’s classification.
The agency added that it has sent a note to local theatre group Wild Rice, which staged the play, to remind it of its obligations.
…”As the last scene in the play was not part of the final script submitted, we wrote to Wild Rice to remind them to do so in the future and to also consult the National Heritage Board on the use of the state flag in their performance,” said a spokesman.
According to the NHB, the flag must be treated with ‘dignity and respect’ at all times. This includes not flying it IN THE DARK, displaying it on the exhaust pipe or wheels of your car, or in ‘bad weather’. If you just won a gold medal for Singapore, you’re also not allowed to wrap it around your body ‘like a sarong’ and run around waving to the crowd no matter how happy you are. You may hold it up after winning a national football trophy like a big Royal Baby, just not when it’s raining, or in the haze for that matter.
As for the play’s ‘gimmicky’ curtain flag dropping on stage, this violates the rule that the flag ‘shall not touch the ground’, though if you’re picky and lazy to explain the act in abstract terms, you could argue that technically a stage is a raised platform and not ‘the ground’. Such ruling isn’t about veneration of a state symbol so much as anthropomorphizing it like a spoilt little princess, one that must not come into bare contact with mortal skin not to mention a man’s groin, or exposed in any way that outrages its modesty or desecrates its honour. The worst insult to the flag would be burning it, a crime akin to assassination of royalty. I’m not sure how ‘dignified’ it is, then, to wrap a gurgling, pissing, shitting newborn baby in the flag to symbolise rebirth and renewal. If I were a national flag I wouldn’t be too comfortable with the idea of being hung at a great height from a noisy helicopter either. Some of our very own Red Lions even use the flag as their parachutes during their NDP freefalls. Not sure if they catch the flag entirely before allowing it to drag all over the ground.
You can’t use the flag as an artistic device without seeking permission and the people at Wild Rice should have realised this based on past crackdowns on our flags being ‘abused’ in the name of art. Yet it’s also baffling why the MDA paid special attention to a local play while not doing anything about the flag being vandalised with the words ‘The Used’ at a rock concert some months ago. But flag pampering aside, how much ‘love, respect and dignity’ was given in the MAKING of our flags in the first place? Did anyone check on the factories producing these flags to see if they were packed in boxes in a ‘dignified’ manner, or if faulty ones were disposed in a sanitised, government-approved receptacle without being mixed with used staples and banana skins?
According to a ST Forum writer on 7 Aug (Produce better quality flags), a $2 flag purchased from a community centre had many ‘missing stitches and patches of red dye on the white section’. She complained that the poor quality control from the relevant authorities was a lack of ‘respect and dignity’. For $5 from a petrol station, you may get a similarly crappy flag with distorted red and white sections. Made in China too. NHB makes no mention in its guidelines about how a single stitch on the flag should not be out of place, but perhaps they should also take some responsibility for the distribution of such shoddy merchandise from the beginning. If you’re so particular about how a flag is treated, you should jolly well start ‘respecting it’ from the very first stitch from which it birthed and not just when it’s out of its packaging, unless you’re willing to admit that a flag is only to be revered when you unbox it, before which it’s a mere piece of cloth that can barely pass off as a hankerchief.
In fact, if you’re a true patriot you should boycott all poor quality China-made flags and only settle for an artisanal one painstakingly handstitched to precision, down to the exact Pantone 032 reds and Pantone whites, by homegrown veterans. If it weren’t forbidden, I would even use it as a blanket at night and dream sweet dreams of how we built a nation, strong and free.
Happy 48th birthday, Singapore!